"I see your hair is burnin'. Hills are filled with fire. If they say I never loved you. You know they are a liar. Drivin' down your freeways. Midnight alleys roam. Cops in cars .... LA Woman, you're my woman." (The Doors, 'LA Woman') Read Guide >
The good news: You can do it. Renting an apartment in LA is far easier and cheaper than in cities of comparable size like San Francisco and New York. Legions of dreamers, wanderers, pioneers, artists and those in search for a better life have picked up and moved to the belly of the beast, and so can you.
The bad news: Los Angeles has over 100 definable neighborhoods, and deciding which one of them to live in can be intimidating. However if you do your research, you too can join the masses in the land of milk and honey, the entertainment capital of the world, the center of the universe: the City of Angels.
If you don’t already have a job or school lined up in a particular area of Los Angeles, then your options are pretty open. Talking to locals is always the best way to figure out a new neighborhood, but here’s a quick breakdown to get you started:
Whichever side you happen to choose will most likely be where you spend the grand majority of your time. Commuting back and forth across the city can, and probably will, drain your time, money, and sanity. Living somewhere on the west side – say, Venice or Santa Monica – will be more conducive to relaxing on the beach on your off days whereas east-siders will only see the beach if absolutely necessary. We really mean it when we say the traffic is that bad in LA. Furthermore, the geographical reality of Los Angeles makes your choice of a neighborhood very important; when people ask you where you’re from, you don’t just say “LA” but rather: Silver Lake, K-Town, Venice Beach or Hollywood!
Santa Monica: A polished seaside city with a famous pier, Santa Monica is the epitome of the west LA. Upscale shops, gourmet restaurants, spoiled dogs and slick new cars make Santa Monica a place of affluence and ease. Santa Monica is a very livable neighborhood, with the family-friendly farmer’s market on Main Street every Sunday morning, but it will cost a pretty penny to call this place home. $$$$
Venice Beach: If you are determined to live by the beach, but your budget is tight, Venice might be a good option. This funky beachside neighborhood retains the bohemian spirit that once attracted the late frontman for The Doors, Jim Morrison. You can tell by the colorful parade of characters that populate the area, from street performance artists and hippie craft vendors to musclemen pumping iron and the occasional hobo. If variety is your spice of life, think about a home in Venice. $$
Westwood/Century City: Although Century City is a business center that turns into a practical ghost town at night, Westwood next door is the home of UCLA – and therefore has plenty of students, student housing and student-priced restaurants and bars. Parking can be a nightmare but if you’re young and willing, Westwood can be a happenin’ place to be. $$
Culver City: Long known as a movie and TV production Mecca– and for being a little soulless - the reputation that once defined this area is a changin’. A kind of bohemian gentrification is slowly, but surely taking over the area, meaning that you can find an apartment here for a decent price. $$
Beverly Hills: We’re going to go out on a limb here and say you, like most humans on planet Earth, probably can’t afford Beverly Hills. A separate city from Los Angeles altogether, “the Hills” represent the epitome of luxury, decadence and conspicuous consumption. Mere mortals are welcome to shop along Rodeo Drive, but unless you’ve got some bubblin’ crude filling up your bank account, renting here is probably not an option. $$$$$
West Hollywood: West Hollywood (or We-Ho) is one of the nicest, cleanest and most stylish areas in Los Angeles and one of the biggest gay communities in America. Very trendy and forward thinking, West Hollywood is full of upscale clothing shops, new eateries, rainbow flags, adorable dogs and best of all, tolerance. $$$
Hollywood: Hollywood is where many people first land when they arrive in LA, and this neighborhood has the cheap, seedy apartments to prove it. Here, you’ll find plenty of shops selling hooker clothes, bongs, cheap souvenirs, drunken young people, sushi trucks and a faint smell of urine. Loud, fun and boisterous, Hollywood is a great destination for a night out - but think twice before you sign a lease here, as living in the thick of things may get a little old for most people. $
Silver Lake: This hip, young neighborhood is full of organic cafes, eclectic boutiques, dive bars, chilled-out coffee shops and the artsy people that inhabit them. Located between Echo Park and Glendale, Silver Lake has a central location, just 10-15 minutes to downtown or Hollywood. Finding an affordable apartment here isn’t easy, but with enough legwork it can be done. $$
Echo Park: Echo Park is slowly but surely losing its “gangsta” reputation from a decade ago as cute little shops, vegan cafes and hip artists looking gradually infiltrate the perimeter in search of good deals on rent – although you might still hear gunshots now and again. Echo Park Lake is quite beautiful during the day, Dodger Stadium is around the corner, and the Echo and the Echoplex venues both see a lot of hot musical action all throughout the year. $
Los Feliz: Once upon a time, Los Feliz was the indie lovechild of Los Angeles, but the neighborhood has since been invaded by upscale yuppies who want to be cool, thus driving up the rent and driving out all the artists who actually ARE cool (they now live down the road in Echo Park). Still, this pretty area is a relatively chill place to come home to from the madness of LA. It features quick access to neighboring Griffith Park and some particularly gorgeous homes, that is, if you can afford to live in one. $$
Wilshire/Midtown: Centered on Wilshire Blvd, this area is a nice mix of wealthy people, students, middle and working class families. It’s also home to Koreatown (or K-town), where you can find an apartment in any price range. Though you might score something cheap here, keep in mind that life in central Los Angeles can be incredibly congested, making dealing with traffic an everyday issue. $$
Downtown: Downtown Los Angeles is the heart of a city that has no heart. Its citizens are working hard to revive the area and transform it from hobo-land to a thriving urban center for young professionals and families. You can rent a chic new loft with a killer view for an amazing price – but when you walk outside at night, you’ll still be toe-to-toe with a homeless problem that continues to linger. For some people, it’s worth it to be in the first wave of gentrification, but others will find it a bit problematic – either way, make sure your place has secure parking options. $$
Now that you’ve been outfitted with the proper tools, tip, and tricks, we’re confident that finding the LA apartment of your dreams is definitely within reach. LA is a big place gleaming with opportunity, and it’s up to you to grab it, like life, by the horns. Now go forth, dear apartment hunter, and claim your piece of this angelic city.